How we started homeschooling Pt 4
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschool on 16 May 2014.
In Part 3 of our homeschooling journey, I shared how we learned to focus on things that mattered. Part 4 is a look at how we taught our children, and this installment will touch on Literacy. If you missed the previous installments, do join our family’s homeschooling journey by checking out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
LEARNING THE 3Rs: Literacy
Homeschooling or unschooling? Imperfect labels as they are, both share a common attribute: we are our children’s main educators. While a homeschooler prefers a more structured approach with emphasis on subject mastery, an unschooler is inclined towards non-formal and naturally spontaneous learning.
There’s really no need to get hung up on terminology as there will be significant overlap whichever side of the fence you belong. Either way, there’s structure and spontaneity in varying degrees. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what passed off as ‘education’ in our home? What about the 3Rs?
Here’s a peek at what we did when our own boys were under twelve.
Start with reading
Educators tell us a learning environment or a reading culture is vital to children becoming learners. Fortunately we were readers ourselves – books lined the walls of our home, books were our friends, bookstores our favourite hangouts. The big payoff for learning to read comes when your children read to learn. So we were pleased when our boys caught the habit earlier than later.
Initially, the standard language readers were our textbooks, but what got our boys hooked were real age-appropriate books. Picture books soon gave way to those with structurally richer sentences and vocabulary.
Two things were key: We read aloud (ending on a “to-be-continued” note), and we talked a lot (about what we’ve read). It’s hard to beat shared book reading to improve listening and comprehension skills. It’s great for family bonding too. There we were plonked down on a sofa, paying attention and waiting for one another to speak or ask a question after Mom or Dad was done reading. And we had to keep it civil, being considerate to one another while keeping interruptions to a minimum.
Writing and copywork
Once our kids graduated from their ABCs, we introduced them to writing full sentences as well as copywork. They filled up exercise books with text from storybooks, and poems. We also had them copy Bible verses such as these:
Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 3:5-8 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.
The point was not merely writing, but understanding the ideas that words communicated. Again, that led to all kinds of conversations.
After learning from a fellow homeschooler about journaling, I gave each boy a hardcover A5 journal. Write an entry a day, anything, any length, I said. Sometimes we offered suggestions.
When my Dad was alive, I asked them to interview their Gung-Gung. I told them he was a young man during the Japanese Occupation and oh boy, wouldn’t they love to hear about war and severed heads, how he was almost arrested at a checkpoint while smuggling cigarettes.
Once on a trip to Penang, I made a special vacation scrapbook. We looked up the internet and identified places we were visiting, and then had them write and sketch all through the trip.
In time their language blossomed. We were gratified that their daily entries were becoming more thoughtful and more varied in subject and length. What tales they recorded – their curious perspective on life, their observations on happenings in the neighbourhood, what they did with friends, how our maid Rosalie saved Elliot from choking(!), what they looked forward to.
Detours on the journey
I must confess we did not do much about grammar (not that we didn’t care), and phonics was not on our to-do list either (growing up in school, phonics wasn’t part of our syllabus then). Instead we learned when the occasion called for it, picking up verbs, tenses, parts of a sentence, letter sounds and even some Latin, like found items on a language trail.
It wasn’t all work and no play. Breaks were frequent in the Tan Homeschool and there were many detours requiring a temporary shift in priorities. That’s okay; we are allowed to be flexible. After all, it is the tree that bends in the wind that will not snap.
Founders of HOMEFRONTIER David and Sook Ching Tan have two adult sons who were homeschooled all the way until college. Ethan (24) recently graduated and got married to a wonderful girl Katie. Elliot (22) is thinking through his options and will be down under to do creative writing before the year is up.